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WHY FI?

Is Google’s new Project Fi wireless service right for you?

using a nexus phone
YouTube/Google
He seems happy with it.
  • Mike Murphy
By Mike Murphy

Technology editor

This article is more than 2 years old.

Setting up service for your mobile phone can be a hassle. It often involves endless paperwork, long lines, confusing pricing structures, undertrained staff, and large bills. Google’s new wireless service, called Project Fi, wants to change that. It launched in April, but has taken some time to proliferate. Now the reviews are rolling in, and so far they’re looking rather favorable.

Quartz has pulled out some of the best features and biggest drawbacks of Project Fi to weigh if you’re considering switching:

Best features

  • It works in 120 countries. If you travel much, then Fi could be a lifesaver. As the website says, Google offers “unlimited texts, low-cost calls, and data at one flat rate of $10 per GB in 120+ countries.”
  • Only pay for the data you need. Google sells data in 1 GB chunks for $10. If you end up using less data, Google will credit you on your next bill.
  • It’s easy to set up. Especially compared to the song and dance required with most of the major carriers.
  • Calls don’t drop. Project Fi effortlessly switches between WiFi and multiple cell networks for calls, without you having to do anything. You can walk out of your home on a call you placed over WiFi, pick up one network while you’re driving, and then a different one when you get to your destination and never notice. The Wall Street Journal calls this “magic.”
  • The base price is only $30. Well, technically it’s $20 for just basic calling, but with 1 GB of data, it comes to $30, plus taxes.
  • Calls are linked to Google Hangouts. Any other devices you own with Hangouts installed—laptops, tablets, watches—will also ring when your phone is called.
  • There’s no annual contract. If you get tired of Fi, you can cancel at any time.
  • It works. As the Washington Post points out, even though you’re constantly switching between networks and WiFi, the cell phone service is just as reliable as what’s offered by any of the major competitors.

Drawbacks

  • It’s US-only. Although the service works in 120 countries, you need a US address to sign up for Fi.
  • It’s invite-only. Google hasn’t announced if Fi will get a general release—and Android head Sundar Pichai has said in the past (paywall) that this service will be “small-scale.” Invites are trickling in: I signed up for an invite on April 22, the day Fi was announced, and only received an invite about two months later.
  • It only works on one phone, which you have to buy. Currently, Fi is only available for Google’s Nexus 6 phone, which you are required to purchase if you don’t already own one. The base model is $499. It’s a massive phone and has what the Verge calls a “thoroughly average” camera. So if you have small hands or like taking photos, you might do better to choose another network.
  • It runs on Sprint and T-Mobile. If you don’t live in a place that has strong service for either of these networks, you shouldn’t bother, or you’ll be limited to using your $500 phone over WiFi.
  • You’ll lose your Google Voice number. When you sign up for Fi, you either have to adopt your Google Voice number as your Fi number, or lose it forever.
  • It’s not actually the absolute cheapest. Republic Wireless offers a $40 unlimited data and WiFi calling plan. If you use more than 3 GB of data a month, Fi isn’t your best bet.
  • Privacy erosion. As is ever the case with handing over to Google more information about your calling patterns, location, and app data consumption, there are increased privacy concerns. But as the Wall Street Journal points out in its review, if you already use Google apps on your phone, the company knows an awful lot about you already.

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